Food For Thought|
Y2K Is It Doomsday?
January 2nd, 1999
David Lawrence Dewey
"Reading provides knowledge...
knowledge leads to answers."
By now, you've probably heard all the various doomsday predictions about what is going to happen after the stroke of midnight on December 31st, 1999. Here is an example of what has been predicted. Banks will fail, state and federal governments will not be able to issue checks, jets will fall from the skies, elevators will stop, automobiles will malfunction, people will die in hospitals. Last but least, your computer will blow up. Is there a chance that any of these things will occur?
In most cases no, in a few, maybe some minor problems. Several of the most outspoken doomsayers are in the business of selling books, getting speaking engagements or talk show appearances. Some of their predictions are like a chapter from a sci-fi novel, complete with aliens. So, what is the worst that could happen?
First, banks will not fail. They have been mandated by the Federal Reserve to be Y2K compliant no later than October, 1999, and to have performed several "tests" to prove they are compliant. Yes, there may be a few bugs here or there, but most will have the problem solved. However, I do suggest that you make sure you have copies of statements from all your accounts, including investment accounts before the year end. This is just to make sure that if some bug does happen, that you have accurate records. It probably would not hurt to have a few hard dollars put away to last you for several days. The reason is not that banks will fail, we may actually experience power outages in various parts of the country. ATM's would not be able to disburse then.
State and federal agencies have been working on this problem for sometime, some agencies as early as 1994. The Social Security Administration computers have just recently been certified by over 280 programmers as being compliant for the year 2000 change. Jet planes are not going to fall out of the sky because of some computer chip at midnight on December 31st, 1999 by not recognizing year 2000. However, if the FAA doesn't get on the ball and get their systems modified quicker, there could be some routing problems of planes in various parts of the country. Elevators are not going to stop all of a sudden. Automobiles will certainly continue to function, although if you have one of these newer models that keeps tracks of your oil changes by date and mileage and blinks a flashing light it is time for a change, you could be finding yourself waiting a long time for it to tell you.
There are a couple areas that could produce headaches for us. That being our electrical generating plants and water plants. Many of these systems nationwide have chips in them that contain time and date functions for daily maintenance routines in these plants. When a plant tries to calculate the next maintenance based on a negative date, (minus 100 years), it will fail and trigger an emergency shutdown. This will cause other plants that have taken care of this problem in time to have to take up the slack, but will be unable to supply the electrical demand. The same scenario for water plants could happen also. Many water plants have computer chips that have time/date stamps in them that will not recognize the year 2000. These have to be replaced and hopefully they will. My advise, don't be surprised if we don't experience brownout periods for the first few weeks of January, 2000 and also some water problems from time to time. Some people are actually buying gasoline powered electrical generators and are going to stock up on bottled water. You'll have to decide for yourself what is best for you to do.Now, let's take a look at personal computers. There are two issues at hand here. There are hardware and software issues. Most PC's will not be able to handle the transition from 1999 to 2000. Older PC's will definitely not be able to handle it and even some of the newer ones. However, you'll be able to solve this problem. And what is the problem? The PC uses two separate independent clocks for time and date keeping. The operating system and your programs rely on them to run properly. If the dates are wrong, and if your programs are dependent on a clock to run properly, those programs will fail. The "RTC" or real time clock is the first or lowest level that computers uses to keep time and date. It actually is a battery powered little chip clock, (without the hands). Most of these chips in computers today, even the newer ones like the new 450MHz Pentium II's are not Y2K compliant. Okay, now don't worry. There is a solution.
You see, normally, the system BIOS directly reads the RTC's output and in most PC's the BIOS will do most of the work calculating the Y2K rollover date change. In most systems, the BIOS tracks the century data in its own area of memory or it overwrites the "19" prefix and sets it to "20". The PC also has a software based system clock that runs only while the system is on. This clock gets its' information, the time and date from the RTC via the BIOS when the computer boots up. If your using Windows as the operating system, Windows sets on top of this and keeps its' own time keeping also. It converts raw information from the system clock in the familiar hours and minutes. It gets the date from the RTC via the BIOS at startup and then keeps track of it separately thereafter.
What you need to do is to test all three areas and the BIOS function to see what your computer needs to be Y2K compliant. First, test your basic operating system at the DOS level. If your using Windows, you get there by either using a boot disk or hitting the F8 key right after you hear the start up system beep. You may have to hit it several times to keep Windows from loading. When the startup menu does appear, select Command Prompt only. If your PC loads or triggers batch files or other software in the config.sys or autoexec.bat files, you may wish to rename them temporarily so you don't have conflicts. CAUTION - Do not try this if your on a network! At the c:/prompt, type DATE 12-31-99 press enter. Then type TIME 23:59:00 and press enter. This should adjust the date and time through the system clock, the BIOS and the RTC. The PC now thinks its' minutes before the start of the year 2000. Wait the minute, type DATE again. If is displays January 1, 2000, then your operating system is Y2K compliant. If not, Microsoft has fixes for Windows, but not all and I will tell you what I found later.
Now you need to see if the BIOS will hold the new date and time. Without changing anything, reboot the computer and get to the C:\prompt again. If the date is not still January 1st, 2000, then you have a problem with your BIOS or RTC clock. You can test the BIOS by itself. You usually enter your BIOS setup program by pressing a special key combination during bootup. Read the text that appears upon startup that says something like, "press F2 or whatever key to enter setup". Set the bios date to December 31st, 1999 and the time 23:59:00. Wait until the BIOS's time and date display tolls past midnight. If they do, then your BIOS is Y2K compliant, if not, there is fix for this also.
Next, test your BIOS and RTC together. Still inside your BIOS setup program, reset the date to December 31st, 1999 and the time to 23:59:00. Allow enough minutes if your computer takes more than a minute to re-boot. Turn off the PC and reboot immediately, re-entering the setup program. Check the date and time, are they January 1st, 2000?Finally, test your system completely. Without changing anything from the last test, exit the BIOS setup program and reboot to DOS. At the DOS prompt, type date and press enter. Does January 1st, 2000 show? If so, your system clocks and BIOS do not have a problem with the 2000 year changeover.Now if you are still having problems and your PC is not Y2K compliant either by hardware or by the operating system, you will need to get "fixes" to correct the problems. First, you need to see if it is a hardware problem. These are sites where you can test your hardware for FREE. The National Software Testing Lab's YMark2000 is the best.
National Software Testing Lab's
Here are some other sites that offer FREE hardware tests:
Test2000.exe : http://www.rightime.com
Millennium/Pro Check: http://www.unicore.com/millennium.html
Need hardware solutions? Here is a listing:
These vendors deal with the BIOS:
AMI: http://www.megatrends.com/y2k/default.hhtml Award: http://www.award.com/tech/y2k.htm
* the above carries many brands *
Need software solutions?
All versions of Windows 95 have problems with Explorer and the DOS DATE and DIR commands. You can download and install updated versions of the winfile.exe and the command.com files in a single file from Microsoft at:
Internet Explorer can display four digit dates. You must manually select the option using the Control Panel/Regional Settings applet and set to four digit years, but you have to have Internet Explorer 4.0X or later to do this. However, I used a program called FIX2000PRO and found many more files in Windows 95. I list these later.
For Windows 3.1 and 3.11, the file manager garbles files created on or after 1/1/2000. Microsoft provides a solution to install a new version of the File Manager at: http://support.microsoft.com/download/support/mslfiles/W31filup.exe. There are some un-resolved problems regarding the leap year on 2/29/2000. Microsoft doesn't have a fix at this time. You'll have to manually correct your date each day after this. My advise, if your computer can handle it, upgrade to Windows 95.
The best overall program that checks both software and even provides the Rosenthal Year 2000 Hardware fix is FIX2000PRO. It provides a real time/date fix at the autoexec.bat level to correct the BIOS and RTC clock in 100 year periods upon bootup. Its' main features include a search only and search and repair. If you just use the search function, it will list all the files it finds on your hard drive that needs repair. You can then run the search and repair, or you can select any individual file for repair. It actually goes in and corrects the main code binary part of that program to correct the Y2K problem. The professional version has a wide search where it can go out on the internet and look for the file from the provider and download it for you even if you prefer that, ( if there is one from the supplier, many I have found are not providing fixes on many files). It even checks for the leap year problem. What I found was this. Microsoft says there are only two files in Windows 95 that needs fixing. But when I ran FIX2000PRO, it found that the attrib.exe, fdisk.exe., move.exe.,subst.exe.xcopy.exe, and twelve other DLL files in the Windows system sub-directory that evidently are not Y2K compliant. I can't seem to get a reply from Microsoft concerning these files. Evidently, there are more files affected in Windows 95 that are not Y2K compliant that Microsoft isn't telling about. For more information about FIX2000PRO, visit their website at http://www.intelliquis.com.
Concerning Windows 98 Y2K compliant issues is another matter. There are so many fixes affecting so many files in it that Microsoft is mailing out not one, but two CD'S with the fixes. Evidently, they found several large files that needed fixes, then found more and this is why there are two CD'S for Windows 98 Y2K compliant fixes. You can either request the CD's at Microsoft's site or can call. You will probably be better off if you call the support number and request them. The sooner you do this the better. There will probably be a mad rush for these towards the latter part of the year and Microsoft may not be able to keep up with the demand.
You'll need to watch for certain dates that could cause problems. Some systems will not recognize leap years beginning in 2000. Which means that after February 29th, 2000 you'll have to manually reset your clock. But even if you reset the correct date, the day of the week will be off. Some older software programs used special codes such as 9999 as a program code to end a program. Well, you guessed it. Come September 9th, 1999, if you have one of these software programs that has a 9999, it probably is going to halt and will not work. The good news is that this issue deals mainly with older mainframe programs, very few PC programs used this code and I do not have a list of them.
That's most of what you need to do sometime before the end of year and the sooner the better to see if your Pc is Y2L compliant or not.. You might find that the chips in your PC will not go beyond 2000 and you will either have to replace the BIOS chip or buy a new computer. In conclusion, the computer changeover from December 31st, 1999 to January 1st, 2000 will have some bugs nationwide in many aspects of our daily living and we will experience some of the negative results. However, I don't think they will be as bad as what some of the Y2K doomsayers are saying.
This month, my Web Select awards goes to two sites. The first award goes to Tracee Cornforth. She has a great site concerning women's health. Her site is: http://womenshealth.miningco.com. The second award goes to Rexanne's Parenting and Children's Page. Her site is: http://members.aol.com/Rexanne3/parents.html. She has put together a great resource site for parenting.
One last comment, if you did not catch my Newsflash update in early December on the brutal slaying of cats and dogs for their pelt for profit in countries such as Russia, China and the Phillipines, then check out my Newsflash section on my website. I am asking my readers to wirte their elected represenatives to immediately invoke trade sanctions against these counties until these practices stop. Mankind's in-humanity is only as bad as it continues to allow it to happen. Help stop this brutal horrible murder of what we call pets.
~ David Lawrence Dewey ~
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